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Archive for the ‘Amateur Philosophers’ Category

Over three Saturdays this spring in an event called Tables of Content, generous friends of the Norwich Public Library – our local library, will host dinners in their homes to raise money for our superb librarians and the building they inhabit.  Each dinner is based on a book the hosts selected as the theme for their evening.  To add excitement to the event, dinner guests choose their dinner assignment by the book selections — the location and hosts are revealed only after the books and all the guests have been matched.

Photo: You're invited to a literary dinner! "Book" your table here: http://tablesofcontent.weebly.com

How does this relate to books for you to read?  Well, the event offers a diverse group of hosts, and wow did they provide an eclectic selection of books to read.  There is great fiction, some nonfiction sports books, a memoir or two, even Plato.  We realized that the books they selected will provide hours of inspired reading no matter what your reading preferences.  So, we asked the hosts to give us their selections, with a brief review of why they picked the book that they did. And now, we share their selections and rationals with you. Happy reading!

Themes for Saturday April 5

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (2004) – Nothing piques an appetite like “an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.”  From the opening scene in the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books” to the dungeons of Montjuic, The Shadow of the Wind twists and turns through post civil war Barcelona.  Join us in a dimly lit cafe off Las Ramblas where the Catalans hold court and partake of the delicacies and intoxicants of a dangerous and mysterious world.

“Beans Green and Yellow” a Poem by Mary Oliver from Swan: Poems and Prose Poems by Mary Oliver (2011) – Reading Mary Oliver’s “Beans Green and Yellow” suggested a dinner menu for the “Tables of Content” event at our house. Beyond that, though, we envision that an evening with people who enjoy Oliver’s poetry will be fun, relaxed, and inspirational.  We encourage dinner guests to bring along a personal favorite if they’d like.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (2009) – In rural Mississippi 1962, three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step. This book was loved by all members of our family. A great summer read or beach book. We will toast the coming of summer and indulge in southern style cuisine, but there will NOT be chocolate pie for dessert!

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle (1990) – A Year In Provence is the true story of how a London advertising executive and his wife moved to a remote village in south-eastern France. The book documents their attempts to renovate an old farmhouse, but the heart of the story – and the inspiration for our dinner – is all the long lazy meals under the Provençal sun. Think romantic hill villages, cobbled market squares, fields of purple lavender, a canvas full of irises, scents of wild thyme and orange blossom, fat black olives, red tomatoes, and starry, starry nights.

My Life in France by Julia Child & Alex Prud’Homme (2006) – My Life in France is a delightful and delicious account of Julia Child’s love affair with French cuisine and culture.  Julia broke away from her narrow conservative upbringing when she moved to Paris with her new urbane husband.  There, she fell in love with all things French.  With grit, determination and an indomitable spirit, she recounts her tale of learning to speak the language and cook the food.  You can almost taste each dish as she lovingly describes it.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking, originally rejected for publication, took her eight years to complete.  But, American cooks lovingly embraced and emulated her.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (2012) – This story begins in the early 1960’s in a small, isolated town along the Italian coast near Genoa, where a young innkeeper looks up from his work to see a beautiful American actress approaching his dock by boat. Direct from the scandal-laden set of “Cleopatra”, she was sent by the film’s heartless producer for reasons that slowly become apparent. Spanning 50 years with stops in Edinburgh, Hollywood and the Pacific Northwest, the author spins a tale of love and following one’s dreams.  The book describes coastal Italian comfort food — simple, fresh and slow — this will be the inspiration for our meal.

Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team and a Dream by H.G. Bissinger (2003) – This non-fiction book is so fascinating it’s been made into a movie, a television series, almost another movie and inspired legions of cult-like followers.  In it, a Texas high school football team is challenged as their season careens toward “state.” We find that nothing in Texas is as important as high school football, where the players are gods, the schools are “football factories”, and the coaches are above reproach – until they lose.  At our dinner, you get all that, a Texas-sized helping of barbecue brisket, and other “only in Texas” foods! (This BBQ will have vegetarian options.)

Heidi by Johanna Spyri (1880) – Do you remember falling into the pages of Heidi, dreaming of the golden cheese grandfather would melt over toast in the fireplace of his mountain hut? If so, this literary evening is for you. Please join us for traditional Swiss raclette, freshly baked Fladen (Swiss apple tart) and Sven’s Schoggikuchen (Wet Chocolate Cake).  A real, live yodeler has promised to make an appearance to send out his call over the Vermont hills and valleys. Please feel free to wear your lederhosen or just come as you are.

Books for Saturday April 26

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (2009) – This is a “Song of New York City” — the high, low, rich and poor, black, white and Hispanic. The author wanted to transport even those who have never been to NYC to that fabulous city.  The dinner? A NYC style one, perhaps with an Irish influence.

Life Is Meals: A Food Lovers Book of Days by James & Kay Salter (2006) – We chose Life Is Meals : A Food Lover’s Book Of Days because it is a wonderful book about eating and celebrating food and friends. Whether or not we serve something directly from the book remains to be seen, but we promise a delicious time.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (2010) – “The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.”  – Jonathan Franzen, Freedom.  There’s so much to discuss in this book…from the complicated and often unlikable characters to the detailed examination of life in America in 2010.  While reading Freedom, I had to retreat to my bedroom to read, ignoring my children, my spouse and even the poor dog so I could tear through all 608 pages.  If you loved Freedom, or better yet, if you hated it join us for a lively discussion of this ambitious novel.

Symposium by Plato (c. 385-380 BCE) – Come eat food appropriate for love, and discuss this ancient version of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walking”.

Books for Saturday May 10

Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon. We chose Death at La Fenice because Donna Leon portrays Venice in such wonderful detail in each of her books, always providing readers with a map so that we can follow Inspector Brunetti as he solves the crime.  Also, his wife Paola is a splendid cook and we will try to recreate one of her mouth-watering Venetian meals for our dinner.

One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, An Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season by Chris Ballard (2012) – I chose this book because I always read a baseball book in the spring.  For me, the last days of winter are agonizing, but reading about baseball always makes me think of summer, childhood, innocence…… and the heroes of my youth.  So much of sports conversation now is about cultural issues and how they fit into sports, and vice versa — will a gay player be welcome in the NFL?  Sports, especially baseball with its special place in our nation’s history, help us relate to one another in a different way, and perhaps can bridge gaps that otherwise wouldn’t be bridged. If there is a theme to this dinner, it’s not just this specific book, but the effect that baseball and other sports can have upon us as we enter the second half of our lives.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2010) – Hunger Games is a fun, fast-paced read that leaves some thought-provoking questions about the future of our society.  Most importantly, this book features fabulously extravagant food, drinks and table settings.

Hungry yet?

For those of you near Norwich in April and May, please join us for these fun and book-infused evenings. For more details and to purchase your tickets, visit the Norwich Public Library or call them at 802-649-1184.

If you can’t join these dinners, we hope you can enjoy this extensive and eclectic list of fifteen books to read.

BONUS: For people attending the dinners, if you wish to read the book before the dinner and you purchase the books from the Norwich Bookstore, the store will generously donate a portion of those sales (both online and in person) to the library as part of this event.  To activate this donation, you only need to indicate when you make your purchase that you are attending one of the dinners.

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Confession time: Neither of the Book Jam’s Lisas usually reads self-help books, or makes a big deal out of New Year’s Resolutions. Yes, we think about them and make promises to do better, but lists and perfectly executed plans are not our norm.  However, when we started the Book Jam we did vow to try to read books that we would not normally pick up on our own in order to reach as many readers as possible.  And, as we thought about posts for the 2014, and specifically a New Year’s themed post, we picked up a few books from a genre we rarely visit (or at least not since we quit dating) — the self-help genre.  Honestly, they helped.  How?  Well, both caused us to think a bit differently about conflicts and concerns in our life, and they provided a bit of comfort in that we could relate to aspects of each of our chosen author’s lives. Here are our two recommendations.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, PhD and LMSW (2010) – We first heard of Ms. Brown because of a TED talk.  Then she seemed to be everywhere – on multiple NPR interviews, in magazines, books in friends’ homes.  So we picked up this book of hers and read.  In it, she takes her research studying difficult emotions such as shame, fear, vulnerability from her career at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, and adds insights from her own “mid-life unraveling”. (This is her term for the more typically named mid-life crisis.)  She defines the unraveling as a time when you are “challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and embrace who you are“.  Her conclusions from this research and work?  Well, we would sum it as follows — that courage, compassion and connection are gifts that only work when exercised.  In this book, she shows both how this exercise is possible, and how it changes those who practice these gifts.

The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist (2010) – A great entry into thinking about how you interact with money and how it interacts with your life. And, since money is everywhere and determines so many things in one’s life — job, food purchases, type of home, type of neighborhood one’s home is in — thinking about how you approach and relate to money seems important.  Using anecdotes from her work as a fundraiser for large non-profit organizations and her personal life, she shows how one’s thoughts about money filter one’s interactions with the world.  Groundbreaking?  Probably not, but we found it useful as she caused us to think about money — a topic we honestly find uncomfortable discussing during out best moments.  She also has us thinking about our own work and how we value it. Stay tuned for any ways this thinking affects our future reading choices.

Disclosure: We did not read these books straight through, but instead picked them up a bit at a time over the past few months.  For us, this felt like the right way to approach these authors.  We mention this only to give you “permission” to dabble, rather than immerse yourself in self-help genre, in case you too usually avoid this genre.  And, we promise our next post will delve into the power of fiction.

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Unknown-2There’s STILL time to find a great gift for those hard-to-gift-people on your list.  Remember – size does not matter, substance does, and books are the perfect fit for anyone. You don’t even have to ship them because you can simply gift them to an iPad.

Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza, and a Joyous New Year to all. We truly look forward to sharing more recommendations in 2014. We wish you a great year’s end full of good books and fun with friends and family. Thank you for being a part of The Book Jam in 2013 – 2014 promises to be a year full of fabulous paragraphs and plots.

But before you finish up your wrapping, wait! – here are just a few more ideas before Santa heads out with his sleigh…

For non fiction readers

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (November 2013) – We love essay collections, and this one by Ms. Patchett is truly superb. And it’s not simply about happy marriages, but about life’s trials and the wisdom that comes with age. Patchett’s writing is clear, funny, insightful and causes you to think a bit differently for a time about owning a bookstore, divorce, friendship, censorship, and life in South Carolina. We truly think this would make a thoughtful gift for mature readers on your list. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

For fiction lovers

Sycamore Row by John Grisham (October 2013) – When I saw this novel on a “best books of 2013″ list – a list that also included Donna Tartt and other authors whose novels tend not to become blockbuster movies, I decided to give it a read.  I am so very glad that I did!  Mr. Grisham is a master at plot and suspense.  And, since I am a fan of the movie A Time To Kill, spending time with Jake Brigance years after the trial from that first book, felt like a mini-reunion.  My recommendation?  Get this for anyone you know loves to read, but for whom you don’t know what types of books they like.  But, please use this next bit of advice, and before you gift Sycamore Row to someone else, read it yourself and enjoy the treasured gift of time with a page-turning story.  ~ Lisa Christie

For young adults or sports fans or adults who like young adult novels and/or sports books

 Foul Trouble by John Feinstein (November 2013) – This is another great young adult book from Mr. Feinstein.  This young adult outing is not one from his mystery series, but is about the corruption in college basketball.  He definitely has an ax to grind with the NCAA and some colleges, but with this book, he does so in a good story.  Reading it with your favorite sports fan or young adult could be a great way to engage in a conversation about abuse, trust and doing the right thing. ~ Lisa Christie

Poetry, or a great gift for anyone who needs a chuckle

God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Marla Frazee (2013) – This collection is going to be a go-to gift for a while, especially for those people whose preferred reading genres are unknown.  Hilarious illustrations accompany amusing poems about God and what she/he does every day (e.g. take a desk job, make dinner, ponder advice from Buddha). ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

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Buckle your seat belts and put on your sunblock because here we go, our last post before we take August off to “go reading”.  In it, we share books we hope you take with you on your end-of-summer adventures.  We’ve tried to find something for every literary mood you might have — fiction, memoir, thrillers, and yes, even, mind-candy reads. Have a great time wherever these books may take you. We look forward to being with you again in mid-September.

Fantastic Fiction

FC9780316126489Wise Men by Stuart Nadler (2013)- Bluepoint, Cape Cod, 1952. This is exactly where I wanted to go when I picked up this newly published novel by talented writer Stuart Nadler. Having grown up in coastal Massachusetts, during the summer months I now crave stories set by the seashore, especially in New England.  Along with delivering the sun and the sand, this book offers so much more: insight into race, class, and identity.  Teenaged Hilly finds himself spending the summer at his new ocean-front home after his lawyer father catapults to sudden fame and fortune upon winning a class action lawsuit against the airline industry.  He befriends the caretaker on the property and his niece, both of whom are black, and the conflict ensues as Hilly falls for lovely Savannah.  The fallout from their relationship effects both families and years later, Hilly still bears the scars. In the second part of the book he attempts to find his young love and make amends.  The prose in this debut novel is reminiscent of Hemingway, crisp and clear, evocative.  Make sure to stick with narrator Hilly, elderly by the end, as all shall become clear in Wise Men‘s final, brilliant pages. ~Lisa Cadow

 Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma  (2013) –  I seem to be reading many books set in Africa of late and I am glad, as this trend led me to this novel.  Unchangeable begins with  “I’ve lost every book I’ve ever written.”  The “I” is the book’s narrator, a writer, whose literary attempts began early in life.  At age eight, in an airport terminal where he spent a lot of time hanging out with various airport vendors waiting for his airline “hostess” mother to return from flights, he wrote and promptly lost his first novel.  He then proceeds to lose three other books: “a novel, a novella, and a biography,” in a variety of creative places – in a black lake, with a woman he has loved and lost, and in an African landfill.   All three lost novels are his fictional accounts of true events involving the narrator, his friend Julian, a much more successful author, and Eve, the elusive actress the narrator loves.  And in this novel, the “truth” of the narrative is truly stranger than the fiction.  But, what actually is truth?  Ultimately, that is the question the narrator confronts and examines in this intriguing novel by a strong “new-to-me” author – Mr. Jansma.  I look forward to his next book. ~ Lisa Christie

Benediction by Kent Haruf (March 2013) – With the quietness of his novels,  Mr. Haruf tricks the reader into thinking nothing at all is happening.  Then somewhere along the way you realize so much is going on.  In Benediction — a man has mere weeks to live as his cancer advances, a daughter comes home to help him die, a son disappears, a girl comes to live with her grandma after a tragedy, a middle-aged woman lives with the choices her love life has offered and much more unfolds.  Yes, all of this action happens while you as the reader are thinking “hmm where is the action of this plot?”.  Through it all, you will enjoy the well-picked prose and your time in Mr. Haruf’s Holt, Colorado. ~ Lisa Christie

 FC9781594486401The Yonhalosee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclanfani (June 2013) - DiSclafani doesn’t miss a hoofbeat as she lands the reader at an all girls riding school in North Carolina in 1930. The atmosphere she creates is magical and lush, moving between the orange groves of old Florida where the narrator Theodora grew up and the oak-hickory filled Blue Ridge Mountains. This is a coming of age novel mixed with suspense and mystery as we don’t know quite what fifteen year-old Theodora has done to land herself in this privileged exile — or how she will get herself home. While I didn’t always like or identify with Theodora or her choices, I appreciated this book and the author’s excellent writing, the characters we meet, and considering the dilemmas they faced . Yonhalosee would make a good choice for a reading group as it puts forth plenty to discuss about race, class, family, and sexual morays.  ~Lisa Cadow

 Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2013) – We both have only just started this novel, but it is so full of insight and ideas that we feel the need to share it on our summer reading post.  It starts out with whip-smart Ifemilu who’s studying in Princeton, New Jersey then setting off for the less posh Trenton in the summer heat to get her hair braided.  Insights on race in America and the African experience here abound, and we’re only a few pages in.  Thus far in our reading we agree, it would be a great big satisfying novel to sink your teeth into as summer days wind down.~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

“Beach” Reads/Mind Candy/Humorous Fiction

 FC9780547576213The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman (April 2013). There are two authors I “follow,” eagerly awaiting their next books. Eleanor Lipman is one  of them(and Geraldine Brooks is the other). Reading Lipman’s books evokes the same feelings as watching a satisfying Nora Ephron film. The View from Penthouse B is a fun and farcical story about a motley crew of characters: a recently widowed writer mourning the loss of her husband and trying to get up the nerve to seek male companionship, an unemployed financial analyst who loves making cupcakes and enjoys his single, gay lifestyle in the city, and the owner of the apartment who is still reeling from her ex-husband’s betrayal and losing all of her savings to Bernie Madoff. As always, Lipman’s dialogue is witty and engaging and the reader finds herself rooting for these apartment mates to find love and belonging by book’s end.  ~Lisa Cadow (And Lisa Christie, another Lipman fan is looking forward to this one in August.)

 FC9780385349406Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell (June 2013) — Yes, summer and heat go hand in hand.  And apparently in 1976, London suffered more than most. (Although, as I write this, it is hard to imagine feeling more heat in Vermont.)  That 1976 heat wave is the setting for a series of events in this wonderful book about an Irish Catholic clan living in London.  The chain of events unfurls once the father of three grown children disappears, causing all the grown children to rally around their mother.  And well, his disappearance leads to a secret which when unveiled leads to a series of events that rapidly take over everything in the hot, hot heat of this long ago summer.  Enjoy! ~ Lisa Christie

FC9780399162169A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams (May 2013) — If you feel  like you need a little mind candy at the beach, don’t pass over A Hundred Summers. This is another novel set on the New England seashore, this time in exclusive Seaview, Rhode Island during the summer of 1938. The country has passed through the Great Depression, is on the cusp of World War II and the great hurricane of 1938 is poised to come hurtling up the coast. It is an evocative setting and interesting time period in which to tell the story of Lily, in Seaview with her family for the season, where she runs into ghosts from her past. Nick her college sweetheart and Budgie, Lilly’s former classmate from college are now married and residing down the beach. Truths, lies, and secrets emerge as summer breezes turn to hurricane force winds. Fun, light, and perfect for a breezy day at the beach. Don’t forget to wear your 1930’s style swimsuit!

Skios by Michael Frayn (2102) – Reading Skios is kind of like falling into a Neil Simon play set in the Greek islands. Right from the start the reader is tumbling through the olive groves along with the disparate characters who are spending the weekend on this remote island. There are doddering academics, wacky philanthropists, aspiring yuppies, lying liars, and those out for just a little romantic fun who come together to make this a comedy of errors and tale of mistaken identities. You’ll want to gobble this up  in one read, like a delicious hunk of feta.

Memorable Memoirs/Essay collections

 If it’s Not One Thing It’s Your Mother by Julia Sweeney (April 2013) – I loved this book. I loved the author’s humor. And, I appreciated her humor most when she discussed more serious topics: her chapters on adopting a girl from China and being a single mom are superb; her chapter on addiction is poignant; and her chapter on abortion should be read by everyone on all sides of this issue – but especially by policy makers.  To complete your summer of activity, read this and then go hear the former SNL star Ms. Sweeney as she is one of the voices in this summer’s animated movie – Monster’s University. ~ Lisa Christie

 How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (June 2011) — This book by the British comedian had my cousin in stitches during a recent beach vacation.  She seriously was laughing so hard she cried just from the blurb on the back of the book. She then laughed again and again as she picked up and read randomly from different chapters.  Based upon her reactions and recommendations from Lisa Cadow and our friend Cindy Pierce, I finally read this gem of a book.  I am so, so, so glad I did.  A very superb way to think about feminism and life, and a great way to laugh a bit as you end your  summer. ~ Lisa Christie

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (April 2013) – Mr. Sedaris always makes us laugh and always leaves us with something to think about.  This is not a “light” read, but it is full of humor.  We recommend “reading” this by listening to him narrate the audio-book version in his oh-so-unique voice.  Maybe you could listen as you take that final end of summer road trip. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Tantalizing Thrillers

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler Olsen (August 2011) – Mr. Adler-Olsen is my new favorite Scandinavian author of thrillers.  This book is the first one in a great series based in Denmark and featuring a flawed detective and his Muslim side kick.  I am tackling book three – A Conspiracy of Faith –  in August, when the Book Jam “goes reading”. ~ Lisa Christie

Ghost Man by Roger Hobbs (2013) – This first novel by a young American novelist is being reviewed with high marks by sources as diverse as The New York Times, Booklist, O magazine, and Kirkus Reviews.  I picked it up when Carin Pratt, a Norwich Bookstore bookseller recommended it for a great summer thriller.  She is right.  I usually do not enjoy books about gambling or drug wars or drug deals gone awry.  However, the language choices, the level of detail about underworld dealings and the compassion with which Mr. Hobbs writes about the criminal elements in our midst grabbed me and kept me engaged until the very end. ~ Lisa Christie

Perfect Picture Books – Just in case you need a “family” read for youngsters

The Pink Refrigerator by Tim Egan – We LOVE the Dodsworth books in our house for their humor and their humor.  In this latest outing, Dodsworth discovers a magic refrigerator that allows him to explore the world a bit. A PERFECT book to share with your young friends as they think about how to design their own summer adventures or as they claim “we’re bored”. ~ Lisa Christie

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While here at the Book Jam we don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion that some books are good for women to read and others for men — we do believe it is important to distinctly honor Fathers on their special day with the perfect literary pick.  So in honor of the upcoming Father’s Day, we have selected some books for you to bestow upon the great dads out there.  And relax, you still have time to order them from your favorite independent bookseller.  Or, you can always make a creative “IOU a book, Dad” card.

Cartoon_dad : cute businessman over green background, fathers day. vector Stock Photo

 More Baths Less Talking by Nick Hornsby (2012) – Each month in Believer Magazine, Mr. Hornsby chronicles books he has purchased and those he has actually read or lost in the stack on his nightstand/desk during the previous month.   Periodically, someone collects them into a book.  In this latest volume, he is insightful and irreverent (as expected from the author of High Fidelity and other wry novels).  In one essay, he subtly pokes fun at the “businessmen” who sit next to him on airplanes and tell him – a novelist – that they “don’t read fiction” because they “want to learn something they don’t already know”.  But, by the end of the column, he confesses he wants to be one of these guys (and he describes them as “guys”) based solely on the power of his reading and loving The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  The bonus from reading this collection — a great reading list for anyone. ~ Lisa Christie

9780307947512A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (2012). I’ve thought long and hard about how to describe this book. It’s not uplifting. It’s not necessarily romantic. It’s certainly not a book I’d say has a happy ending, But it is relevant, insightful, and a parable for our times.  Selected as a finalist for the National Book Award and as one of the Top Ten Books of the Year by the New York Times, this novel is reminiscent of “A Visit from the Goon Squad” and other piercing contemporary fiction. Alan Clay, a middle-aged salesman finds himself trying to close a deal in a yet-to-be-constructed city on the edge of the desert in Saudi Arabia. It’s his last chance at business success and he’s in charge of team of green, young workers – all products of the new economy –  there to put on a holographic presentation for the king. This is a story that at its heart questions meaning in the modern marketplace as well as family and what it means to be a father. One of the most poignant parts of this story is a letter that the main character is writing his college aged daughter as he passes the time in this foreign land, a letter that attempts to explain his parenting decisions to her — and to himself. ~Lisa Cadow (seconded by Lisa Christie as a great book, that you remember long after you finish it.)

Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler (July 2013) – Honestly, I picked this up because its title reminded me of one of my favorite of the  “stupid high school” movies genre – Ten Things I Hate About You (1999 with Heather Ledger and Julia Stiles).  While this book (unlike that movie) is not a riff on Shakespeare, it does offer a love letter to Shakespeare’s stomping ground  – London.  It also shows being a father from two perspectives.  The first view — that of a 29-year-old woman who has just lost her father to cancer.  The second perspective — a “hobo” of 50+ years who spends his days wandering London looking for the daughter he helped conceive but, through only a small fault of his own, has never met.  This debut novel offers a strong new author, and a contemporary look at what it means to be a father and to love. ~ Lisa Christie

Older, but Still good

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon (2010) — One of my favorite collections of essays ever.  Reading this will make you appreciate dads.  It will also make you appreciate Mr. Chabon’s writing. And, it may make you laugh and cry a bit. ~ Lisa Christie

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Since we highlighted books for moms in 2011, we thought it only right to balance things out by recognizing good reads for dads. Posting the day after Father’s Day seemed like excellent timing.

Sadly, we couldn’t find an equivalent or, more importantly, an appropriate “Porn for Dads” title  to suggest on par with the Porn For New Moms book that inspired our Mother’s Day 2011 piece, so we decided instead to focus on books that consider parenting from the dad’s point of view.

File:Michael Landon Pa Ingalls Little House on the Prairie 1974.jpg

Before our search began in earnest, we took a little detour and our thoughts veered towards favorite father figures from young adult literature.We reminisced, of course, about “Pa” from the Little House on the Prairie series that marked our childhoods.  What wasn’t to like? He rode horses with bravado, played lullabies on the fiddle, could hunt and gather like no one’s business, fiercely loved his wife and kids and was darn handsome to boot (one look at Michael Landon in the TV series proves this to be true).
Gregory Peck also looms large for us in his portrayal of Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.  Again, how can you go wrong with Atticus? He was a kind and wise  lawyer on the side of all that is right who allows his two children complete freedom and insights only when asked? Admittedly, he attracts danger at times, but that serves to make him an even more exciting Dad.

After this brief trip down memory lane, we  refocused and began looking for modern-day dads who write about and speak to the particular joys and challenges of millennial parenting. We realize that times are very different from when Pa was taming the frontier and that the noble Atticuses of the world raised their children over fifty years ago. So for this post we found fathers who are charting the journey now. Their accounts are fraught with occasional stumbles, honesty, and always humor. So here it is – a list of great gifts for your favorite dads or great reads for yourself about and by dads:

 Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon (2009) – A collection of essays by a well-known and well-reviewed author, whose topics cover everything from the positive traits embedded in the loneliness of a suburban childhood, to questions from one’s children about one’s own use of drugs, to being raised by a single mom, to living with a complicated passionate wife, to being in Chicago with his young son when Obama won, to watching a daughter’s bat mitzvah.  But ultimately the essays, so very often simultaneously poignant and funny, are about the questions one encounters in trying to live a life.  Mr. Chabon’s answers and more importantly his questions, have me thinking, and also looking forward to reading his upcoming piece of fiction – Telegraph Avenue: A Novel (September 2012).  Read this if you are questioning things yourself – his insight and experiences might just propel you in an unknown direction. ~ J. Lisa Christie

Father’s Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son by Buzz Bissinger (2012). This is not just a book for dads but one for all parents.  “Father’s Day” is a moving, exceptionally well-written and extremely honest memoir about a cross-country road trip that Bissinger takes with his 26-year-old son, Zach. It is a book that, as he explains it, has been in the writing for many years, since his twin sons Gerry and Zach were born three minutes apart. This short three minutes made a big difference in each of their lives: Gerry went on to live a “normal” life filled with girls, college, and graduate school; Zach, who experienced oxygen deprivation was effected cognitively and has spent his life  in special programs and under the care of his parents. Traveling across America with his son Zach, Bissinger explores his journey as a father, his relationship with his own parents, and the complexities of his own adult journey.  Father’s Day is about the expectations of parenthood and, in the case of Bissinger, the reality of the experience of raising an extraordinary son. (Note: If the name Buzz Bissinger sounds familiar, he is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and also the author of Friday Night Lights).

Shortlisted – only because we haven’t quite finished it yet:

 Dan Gets a Minivan:Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad by Dan Zevin.  His 2002 book – The Day I turned Uncool:Confessions of a Reluctant Grown-up was a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor, and has been optioned by Adam Sandler for a movie.

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“Don’t Lie” – The Books Eye View from Vermont: Our local elementary school teaches second graders about proverbs. To wrap up the unit, students put on theatrical productions of their own. At the end of staging the plays, J Lisa’s son said he’d learned “Never trust a liar!” Hmmm, true enough! This recent proverbs unit coincided with the publication of several new books focusing on virtues. It’s good to have lots of reminders, even if you’re a grownup and if you live in such a virtuous state! These are the books that caught the BookJam’s attention.

Listen Now to Virtues or Download http://www.box.net/files#/files/0/f/0/1/f_745975870

This week we’ve put together a specially themed show dealing with subject of “Virtues” – or perhaps the lack thereof.  Over recent weeks, J Lisa took notice of several new releases hitting bookstands that deal with morality in its many forms – some even got play time on National Public Radio. Tangled Webs: How False Statements are Undermining America: From Bernie Madoff to Martha Stewart was discussed in early May on the Diane Rehm Show. It focuses on what author Stewart sees as an epidemic of perjury in our culture — and when the original crime is only made worse when the perpetrator lies about it.

Next we take a brief look at another new release entitled Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue by Eric Felten. An erudite and scholarly work which is also as thoughtful as it is entertaining,  Felten explores the history of loyalty — from the way it was understood by the ancient Greeks to our now modern society in the age of Twitter and Facebook. Fascinating, but not entirely surprising considering that the author is a prize-winning columnist for the Wall Street Journal. He was also interviewed on the Diane Rehm Show this spring — maybe she should also get a little credit for noticing this trend in non-fiction releases!

But the majority of our Bookjam conversation focused on the Ian McEwan’s fictional masterpiece, Atonement. This gracefully, perceptively written book examines the the events of a spring day in 1935 that has life changing effects for all involved.  J Lisa commented that “this is the only book I’ve ever read where I wanted to reach into the book on a certain page and tell the child to stop!” It deals with perspective, lying, misconception, love and, of course, atonement. Sounds heavy, right? So why would anyone want to read it? The Lisas offer a few opinions: for one,  it takes the sedentary act of reading and makes readers want to take a physical action. And, it is helpful exercise in reminding us to challenge our assumptions and to assume other perspectives before judging anyone.

Here at The BookJam we always try to end our discussions on  light, positive note. So for the “Virtues Episode”,  we close by taking a brief look at Jon Sciezka’s’ humorous book The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! A picture book for all ages, Sciezka deconstructs this famous fable by presenting us with the big bad wolf’s perspective. Did you ever stop to consider that perhaps the falsely accused wolf didn’t mean to cause any harm – maybe he just wanted to borrow a cup of sugar! Read it and laugh…and challenge your assumptions.

The musical selection at the end of our podcast is Annie Lenox’s “Why.” And, we’ve inserted a new tune to welcome listeners: a snippet from Margaret Whiting’s original recording of “Moonlight in Vermont”. It seemed only just a little perfect considering we’re a couple of gals who spend their moonlight hours in Vermont reading up a storm. Happy reading.

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